Culinary Cousins: Dutch Apple Pie

Fall means apples. Thanksgiving means pie. I was a little down for the count this year, but that didn’t prevent me from baking up a bevy of desserts.

Very little stands between me and my kitchen. Especially when sugar, butter and flour are involved.

Read all about it: Dutch Apple Pie

Dutch Apple Pie at www.culinarycousins.com

Culinary Cousins: Lemon Cheesecake

A couple of weekends ago, we celebrated my aunt Taffy’s birthday. Since I’m known as the baker of the family, I attempted a decadent, Southern Living-inspired lemon cheesecake.

Read all about it:

Lemon cheesecake at www.culinarycousins.com

Lemon Cheesecake, Part I

lemon curd

Homemade Lemon Curd Candied Lemons at www.culinarycousins.com Candied Lemons

Lemon cheesecake at www.culinarycousins.com

Lemon Cheesecake, Part II

Monday Musings: On moms, no TV and crowdsourcing.

Happy Monday to you.

This girl needs a vacation. At least a massage or three. And a facial. Maybe a nap. All of the above, really. One of my friends posted a picture last week of a Post-It note she wrote to herself at work. It said: “Do one thing at a time.” I so know that feeling — of being overwhelmed with work and life to the point that you just don’t know where to start. Paralyzed by the enormity of it all. This too shall pass, but for now I’m going to try to take that advice. And get that massage. That vacation — maybe.

This might be the first year in several that I haven’t taken a big, international trip … but who has the time?? It’s a vicious circle.

I had moms on the brain this weekend. First because I started reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, about her hike across the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother’s death. And because I was able to spend this Mother’s Day weekend with the two mothers in my life. I was also thinking yesterday of those whose moms aren’t with us and how incredibly painful that must feel every year (well, every day.) I’m blessed to still hug my mom, and Mimi in all her 95-year-old glory.

mothersday

I’ve been lucky enough to know both of my grandmothers into their 90s, as sharp and strong-willed and stubborn as ever. Aging is pretty rough, on the person and on everyone around them. But I love being able to sit with my grandmother, who can remember the stock market crash of 1929, newlywed life in Savannah during the war and the totally undeveloped Hilton Head Island of the 1960s. We should cherish our elders — my, the stories they can tell.

When I arrived at Mom’s this weekend, I learned that the cable was out and would be until this week. That meant no TV. All weekend long. You’d think I’d have gone into the withdrawal shakes, but it was actually fine. We cooked, we sat, we read and — quelle horreur! — we actually talked to each other. How refreshing.

While we’re (sort of) on the topic of vacation, let me try a bit of crowdsourcing. My family’s talking about cruising to Alaska next summer. Does anyone have recommendations? What line should we cruise? What passage should we not miss? Should we leave from Seattle or Vancouver? Send me whatcha got.

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On decor, dog-shaming and old wives’ tales.

Good Monday to you.

beach_decor

My family is refurbishing our beach house, albeit a bit late in the season. I don’t consider myself especially good at decorating — I don’t have the patience or vision to pick out knick-knacks and accessories, all those little items that make a room look finished. But I learned one important thing about myself: I’m much better at it when it’s someone else’s money. When I’m not grimacing at the $80 pillow or the $200 difference in a panel vs. sleigh bed, I can bring fabrics and colors and textures together like nobody’s business. My house though? Still an embarrassing “work in progress,” after five years.

I joined Instagram this week. As if I needed another social media site to monitor. I’m way over Facebook, am sporadic on Twitter but can Pinterest like a champ. Apparently Instagram is the wave of the future, though. All I know is that I have no idea what I’m doing. But, come. Be my friend. I can promise you way too many dog-shaming pictures of Ollie, like this one. Continue reading

A new venture.

Today is an important day. The birth of a new venture.

My cousins are as obsessed with food and cooking as I am. Maybe it’s in the genes, or maybe it’s because we were raised at the same hearth of good, southern food. And we’ve traveled the world to taste everything else that’s out there.

I’m pleased to tell you that we’re combining our interests and talents to launch a new food blog, called Culinary Cousins. The most interesting part, I think, is not in our shared interests but in our differences. We are in our 20s and 30s. We’re newly out of school, we’re married, we’re single, we have kids, we spoil our dogs. Some of us eat healthy, some of us (ahem) are addicted to chocolate, and some of us have to obey dietary restrictions. I think that runs the gamut, and I’m excited to see what we have to say and share.

You’ll find us all over at www.culinarycousins.com, so come. Check us out. We’re a work in progress, but growing slowly.

My first post is up today: the best. ever. macaroni and cheese. Promise.

A roast and a toast.

I’m sorry. How is it only January 21? With as much as I’ve had going on at work since January 2, it feels like it could be May already. Sheesh.

Luckily, I’ve still had a few moments of fun in those harried three weeks. In fact, the weekend after New Year’s my family, and friends who are family, reconvened for a celebration: my uncle Jim’s 70th birthday. The weather gods were with us, because it was a clear — if crisp — evening for a party.

In the fall and winter, during months with an R in them, it is tradition in the Lowcountry — the area of South Carolina stretching from Charleston through Beaufort and Hilton Head Island to Savannah — to have an oyster roast. It’s a backyard, wear your jeans and relaxed clothes kind of occasion. We always do a mini oyster roast on Christmas Eve, but oyster roasts in general are the soirees of choice for almost any fall and holiday get-together in that area.

The oysters are usually harvested locally, sometimes even directly from the river 10 feet away. They aren’t to be washed, since the briny marsh mud “seasons” them as they cook. (Let’s just not think about that part.) I’ve never done the roasting myself, but I understand that the oysters are shoveled onto and layered between water-soaked burlap sacks and left to steam over an open fire until they open. That’s one way to do it, at least. At our gathering, I think a proper steamer was involved.

You may be thinking at this point that oysters are disgusting. Slimy, salty, mucousy, revolting. I don’t disagree with you. Oysters are not my go-to seafood or shellfish of choice, but somehow I can handle them at an oyster roast. For one, they’re cooked, which greatly improves the texture. And the bit of work you have to do to break into one means the reward is that much sweeter.

oysters

Continue reading

Summertime Happy Hour: Fresh Tomato and Feta Bruschetta

Every time we go to the beach, I’m in charge of happy hour. It’s become such a tradition that my family doesn’t do it if I’m not there. It’s nice to have a purpose, I guess.

I enjoy a happy hour on a normal day, but it’s especially significant on the porch, at the beach, during vacation. You can sip a cool, refreshing cocktail, nibble on something savory and soak up the atmosphere — whether it’s watching the ant-farm family across the street or just enjoying a nice breeze blowing in from the ocean. Continue reading

I'm (not) gonna soak up the sun.

Oliver and I spent a few days at the beach last weekend, for the first and only time this summer. I had grand ideas of slathering myself in sunscreen and pitching a chair on the strand all day with a stack of reading material. Then I realized how much of a hassle that is. It’s hot. I’d have to shave my legs. I don’t swim in the ocean. And I don’t particularly like sand. I’ll take a pool over the beach any day. Plus, the older I get the less I really care about a tan.

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Over my dead body.

I’m nearing the end of another one of those crazy periods in life, full of stress and errands and little sleep. Which, with the dust storm and the new job and some unexpected medical issues of Oliver’s, is probably understandable. (Oh, how quickly I forgot those fleeting days of retirement.) And last weekend was the culmination, the prime reason I had cleaned for weeks and shopped and chewed all my fingernails off.  I graduated from business school.

My family descended on my barely-cleaned home to witness my walking across a stage in a cap and gown one more time and to celebrate such an accomplishment. It was three and a half long, yet still quick, years in the making, and during the weekend I reflected often on the friends I’d made, the classes and people who made me want to pull my hair out, the lessons I’d learned, those stressful times where I’d barely known my own name, my South Africa trip, and ultimately all the fun I’d had. It’s the end of an era, which is always bittersweet.

The best news is that, while it was unnaturally hot in early May, it was my first graduation ceremony ever that wasn’t affected by rain. At my high school graduation, the downpour on the coliseum’s tin roof completely drowned out all the speakers. And the douse of big, fat rain over the outdoor stadium before college graduation just made everyone mad and uncomfortable. So, it was a miracle that we had a clear, if a bit steamy, day this time. And all the scheduling went smoothly — everyone arrived on time and was able to secure decent seating, I didn’t trip over my robe or otherwise embarrass myself and dinner was a big hit.
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Buttermilk Pie: The Experiment, Part I

I’ve been catching up on episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” this week, which always makes me think of my own roots and family history. The truth is I couldn’t be more southern. My mom was raised in the lowcountry of South Carolina, and my maternal roots go several centuries deep in Savannah. My dad is from the Pee Dee area of South Carolina, and we can trace my paternal ancestry back to colonial times in eastern North Carolina and Virginia. I was raised near Charlotte, N.C. — so, like my mom says, we haven’t moved very far.

My exposure to the cuisine of the South while I was growing up included staple recipes that had been in my family and the classics we ate in family-run restaurants. I grew to love food that most southern families have enjoyed for centuries: puckeringly sweet iced tea, fresh figs off the tree, blackberries on the vine and homegrown, road stand vegetables like deep, red tomatoes and fuzzy, tender, juicy peaches. In the fall we picked up pecans under the ancient tree that canopied my grandparents’ backyard and cracked and shelled them inside by the fire. At home we ate fried quail or fish with grits for breakfast, country-style steak with rice, chicken bog, boiled peanuts, slow-cooked collard greens, red velvet and caramel cakes … the list goes on.
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